After yesterday’s good weather we awoke today to some terribly rainy weather. We were to be moving off today to try and get to Chau Doc which would be our last stop before getting into Cambodia. We quickly got ourselves ready as the bus was to be an early one and we were not the only ones to be leaving as Nick, Joseph and Gabby would also be taking leave of Nick’s Uncle and Auntie. We let them all say their goodbyes which were quite emotional especially for Nick who is a nice guy and then we thanked the family for allowing us to stay and gave them some money as well as we had eaten so very well and they had looked after us so well during our stay. Then we were to be dropped off by moped at the bus stop not too far from the ferry. Just as we were about to set off though the heavens opened and both of us as well as our riders got absolutely soaked.
We possibly would have drowned had the bus stop been much further away but we soon enough got there and waited. Nick and his family were also waiting for their bus which soon turned up and then it was our time to say goodbye to them hopefully this would not be the last we would see of them as back in Australia they live in Melbourne,which is on our route so who knows!
We continued to wait and when our bus finally arrived the owner of the shop we were standing outside came and informed us that our carriage awaited us. So we donned our packs and across the road we struggled only to be herded onto the minivan by people who did not look too dissimilar to kidnappers. You know when you get that kind of feeling in your gut that everything is not quite right. The drive was a decent length and along the way we saw a quite different side to Vietnam before it had seemed all fields and farming whilst here it was all markets and fishing because of the many waterways. It was definitely an interesting trip and about halfway to Chau Doc we realised that our guys were bone fide bus drivers – phew! We also spotted a dragon boat festival on one of the many rivers but not knowing when the next bus would be along decided not to look up the Vietnamese phrase for, ‘please stop driver as I want to take a look at the pretty boats’!
Chau Doc appeared to be in the middle of some vast roadworks that looked set to improve the town which was quite a job as the place looked just like what it was, a frontier town full of the rough and the ready. We checked into our room soon enough though and it was quite a nice and modern looking place and if you were hankering after a bit of the grim of the town you only had to step out onto the balcony, I say balcony but I must admit that I have seen bigger window boxes.
We then went for a bit of a walk about the place but there did not seem that much to do so after having some food and coming across the colourful pagoda Chu Dai Bi we returned back to our hotel and asked if someone there could arrange the moped trip to the nearby Mount Sam. Our two riders soon enough appeared and we were whisked off back through the town’s various roadworks and out into the countryside.
The journey was somewhat bumpy but I soon got chatting (shouting?) to my guide, though Liz was having a few problems getting anything out of her guy, who it turned out, could not speak a word of English! Along the way to the mountain we stopped off to watch a village volleyball game. Everyone in the village appeared to be there and as we were taking photos we became as watched as the game. On we went and soon enough spotted the mountain in the distance and it looked quite strange as everywhere round it is as flat as a pancake and then there it is rising up and looking very mountain-like. Before going up though we stopped at a colourful if somewhat strange Buddhist temple. The temple itself was not strange rather some of the statuettes and images were a bit more macabre than we were used to seeing but it was still very colourful and as the guide knew a lot about both it and Buddhism, it made the visit all that more interesting too.
The road up the mountain had seen better days but our guides knew what they were doing and missed most of the major potholes as we ascended. At the top there were a couple of souvenir cum cafe style shops and our guide pointed out Cambodia in the distance. We waved but it did not wave back. However, there did seem to be a lot of burning going on in some of the fields we could see from our vantage point and as we progressed around the top it started to get a bit more cloudy so we completed our circuit with a nice beer and watched the cloud cover approach before our guides took us back down the mountain.
Along on the way back to town we hit the main roadway which was still under construction but this did not stop it being used by transport of the two wheeled variety. One variation on this theme though was a guy we spotted travelling in the opposite direction who whilst he was being conventional and riding the moped it also turned out that he was also pushing his good lady along using just his foot, she was out riding her bicycle – only in Vietnam folks, well possibly not only here but you get the sentiment.
The town was all nicely lit up by the time we got back and we popped out to grab a bite to eat at one of the market eateries and also to have a look around the pagoda we had seen earlier which was still colourful and at this time of night also lit up as well. The market which was situated directly across the road from us also seemed to be well frequented but by now it was getting late so we decided we would have an early night as we needed to be getting up early tomorrow morning.